Has anyone here read The Pretender by Marc Ruskin?
Was listening to a podcast with a few of his stories (undercover work) and it sounds like a great book
After a long dry spell where just about every novel I read was mediocre to poor, I'm now on a hot streak. Just randomly happened across a couple of books from a new (to me) author at the library--Natalia Ginzburg. She's a post-war Italian writer, and is fantastic. A very unique style that I think I am constitutionally required to refer to as "deceptively simple." Basic, very direct sentences, focusing mostly on what characters do or say, without a lot of direct psychological analysis. But which still manages to convey psychological nuance really well. I'm guessing that Elena Ferrante is a fan--I can definitely see some influence there. And although the style is distinct, Ginzburg also reminds me in some ways of Flaubert. Specifically, the attention to the nuance of every word, the ability to communicate psychological insight through characters actions and behaviors, and also the detached and somewhat ironic attitude of the author towards the characters. Ginzburg is very hard and sharp, and not really sympathetic to many of her characters, without being cruel or heartless.
The two books I read of hers so far are both short. Happiness, As Such, which is a mostly epistolary novel, only 160 pages, about a family whose only son has moved away from Italy to England. Sounds boring, but there's a lot there. The other, even better one, is the Dry Heart, an 80 page novella about a new marriage falling apart. It opens with the wife shooting her husband and then jumps back and follows how they got to that point. I love her writing and both of those books are very good.
Another short novel I read was Lanny, by Max Porter. It's a somewhat experimental novel, and hard to describe. There are portions that are very impressionistic, with quick snatches of thoughts or comments from unnamed residents of a small English village, mixed into longer and more coherent sections from the points of view of the main characters. The main story revolves around a couple and their young son, Lanny, and their experiences. It didn't totally work for me, but there are some really good parts, and is definitely worth a read. It would only take a couple of hours.
I've also been working through a few random Nobelists that I hadn't previously read. I picked up two books by recent winner Olga Tokarczuk. Flights, which was highly praised, but which didn't completely work for me. It's a bunch of unrelated short snippets mixed in with a few longer stories. They are very loosely organized around the theme of travel and rootlessness, but they didn't really all hang together for me. Again, a really gifted writer with some very good sections here, but a mixed bag as a novel. Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead worked better for me, with a much more traditional structure and plot. A comedic murder mystery, with an oddball main character/narrator.
Also buzzed through Barrabas by Lagerkvist, a novella about the man pardoned instead of Jesus, and his life afterwards. Short, almost a fable, but really good and insightful.
Since I've been reading all these short novels, I haven't had the patience to tackle Gone So Long. (Sorry Jackie!) Read the first 50 or so pages, and they were good, but didn't immediately make me want to make the commitment for the next 400. The writing is good, if a bit too self-consciously highly styled--seemed to often decide to go for the fancy way to say something instead of the direct way, which I'm not a huge fan of. But it's still on my nightstand waiting.
Also read Job: A New Translation by Greenstein, which was interesting. It's apparently a totally new interpretation of the story, and the ending in particular, with Job much less cowed and accepting of God's wisdom at the end. I am completely unqualified to judge all of the linguistic and philological decisions made by the translator, but it was still very good. And the ending matches my own moral instinct, too, while also making the whole story much more ambiguous and challenging, I think.
And, finally read a short but good pro-immigration polemic, This Land is Our Land, by Suketu Mehta. The later sections in particular I found valuable, when he marshalled all of the evidence showing the great benefits that immigrants bring to the United States (and elsewhere), supplementing the moral arguments he makes in the rest of the book.
Message Thread | This response ↓|
Friday morning book thread! - DT November 22, 2019, 8:11:51
- The Warehouse by Rob Hart. - ihpsdm November 26, 2019, 10:48:44
- Update--just finished a short novel by Peter Handke, the other recent Nobelist - DT November 26, 2019, 7:47:00
- finished the new Jack Reacher book, Blue Moon. For some reason I didn't like it as much - Mismysteri November 22, 2019, 18:18:47
- Has anyone here read The Pretender by Marc Ruskin? - LPAD November 22, 2019, 13:20:47
- I'm reading my book that just arrived from the publisher yesterday - OWWDig November 22, 2019, 12:42:54
- Red Grange bio by NFL Films' Chris Willis.* - Phytynlini November 22, 2019, 10:57:53
- Just finished 1946, a history of mostly that year. - larue33 November 22, 2019, 9:18:47
- god I'm so bad, I've been stuck on Dune for-ev-er.... need to get back in the game now I can't ride* - ijustkrushalot November 22, 2019, 9:07:05
- Just picked up the Rick James biography, should be entertaining* - HamptonSki November 22, 2019, 9:06:20
- suggestions on non-fiction pirate books? listening about blackbeard this morning piqued my interest* - lcubed November 22, 2019, 9:01:50
- I wish I could pin this post - Jackie November 22, 2019, 9:00:23
- On a Stephen King kick all of a sudden. Just finished Dr Sleep - bjl63 November 22, 2019, 8:51:40
- Damn dude, thatís a lotta books. I recently read King of the Hill by A E Hotchner. - Waka November 22, 2019, 8:49:56
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